How do you react when you don't understand something?

That sounds a lot like the theory everyone seems to be talking about recently that it is better to study intensively over a short period of time, as oppoded to gradual study over many months. The idea is that it would be more effecient to study 150 hours in a month than 150 hours over the course of 150 days.

@Everyone from the British Isles
I hope that it was obvious that I was already aware of the differences between your nations, and mostly was posting nonsense out of boredom while preparing an economics test… I must admit, though, that I learned these differences the hard way when I kept confusing an Irish and a Scottish girl who both looked a lot alike.

@ djvlbass’s response to force_de_frappe (Jay)

It sounds like the opposite of that theory to me.

@force de frappe:

“You can learn a significant amount in a couple of weeks of immersion if you are at intermediate+ level. (But ultimately the longer the period of residence, the more one will probably learn.)”

It depends on how you define “significant.” I know people that think they are hot stuff because they know how to say basic words in a foreign language. You know, real complicated, advanced words like “thank you” and “church.”

I remember what it is like going abroad for an extensive time period after reaching a B2/C1 (probably C1, based on how most people describe it) and wanted to be “perfectly native” in the language. Result? Just not possible to reach that native level even if you talk 100% in the language (which I did). It is if you are one in a million exception, but alas I was not.

At one of our lectures our teacher who did a one YEAR fellowship in a subspecialty told us of a person who wanted to get their “certificate” in the same subspecialty. How long was it? ONE WEEK. 40 hours.

You get what you put in.

@ djvlbass

Talking about your nation for a second (one which I am also a citizen of), have you been to the NASA homepage today? I just tried it and I got this message

“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.”

Unbelievable! Apparently the building of the James Webb space telescope (the replacement for Hubble) has even been put on hold. All of their online data appears to not be available.

When I don’t understand, I search for the few things that I do understand and try to keep the conversation going around these items. Not understanding is a useful stimulus to continue my input activities so that I will understand more.

Spending time with real people and not understanding is an excellent activity for training oneself to understand better. You have to go through it, lots of it.

I rarely look anything up, however, there are phrases that I repeatedly don’t understand, and then like magic come across them in my reading or listening. It is all a long process, and we need to learn to enjoy it.

I agree with Steve’s approach on this. I do take this approach with everything, not just language learning. There are many subjects outside of language that I am interested in and when I begin to read about them, they might as well be in a foreign language. For example, if you get a new book on neuroscience or physiology or philosophy from the 17th century. These topics are written in English, but may as well be a foreign language for me in many cases. However, I focus on what I do understand and keep reading. Usually, by the end of the book I am understanding much more and by the second, third, or fourth book on the same topic I am understanding virtually 100%.

Also, every writer has their own voice and particular style which can get taking used to. Steve has pointed this out about his reading Tolstoi in Russian and that he can largely understand most of what he reads for Tolstoi, but that his vocabulary is rather than different than other writers and his comprehension is less developed for different writers in Russian. This is also true again of any topic you study. I can read and understand Nietzsche (translated into English), however Kant is very difficult (again translated into English). Both of these people are philosophers and are written in English when I read them, however the style and voice of the writers make it very different. I just focus on what I understand and keep going if it is something I am truly interested in. This ambiguity tolerance is a really important aspect of learning any new material, whether it is in the mental, physical, or emotional realm of life.